The needle probe or sous-vide probe is a "digital thermometer" for cooking that is inserted in the vacuum sealed food and measures the internal temperature of the food. It is placed into the deepest part of the product at its core, and thus the most accurate temperature is obtained inside the food. It should be emphasised that when we talk about standardising or pasteurising a recipe in sous-vide and low-temperature cooking, the reference value is always the temperature at the core of the food, not the external water temperature. This is why it is vital to know the temperature at the core of the product. But what is the importance of the needle probe? What is it used for?
According to Enrique Fleischmann, Sammic's corporate chef, the needle probe is an "indispensable and fundamental tool" at a professional operating level and it is mainly used for three functions:
1. To standardise recipes
The needle probe is a tool that is used in the kitchen to standardise a recipe. Specifically, it is used to know the times that are needed to make a recipe. That is, the probe is set at a temperature that the product must reach, and the time is measured that the product takes in reaching that temperature. For example, if we have a 3 cm thick, 200 g meat burger that starts at 4°C with the water tank at 70°C, we calculate how long it will take to reach 50°C at the core (temperature at which we want to serve the meat). Imagine that the piece of meat takes 15 minutes to reach the desired temperature. Then, we can determine and standardise that a burger with these thickness and initial temperature conditions will always take 15 minutes to reach 50°C. This data is then recorded on the SmartVide and now we have a standardised burger recipe.
2.For food safety: pasteurisation
The needle probe is also essential for food safety. The probe indicates the evolving temperature of the product at all times; we can see how the temperature increases. Therefore, we can set it so, once it reaches the desired temperature, it starts to count x minutes in order to pasteurise the product. For example, we could set it so that once a chicken reaches 63.5°C, it starts to count 10 minutes (or the time established in the regulations of the country). Then, when the probe reaches that temperature, the SmartVide XL will start to count the set 10 minutes. Thus, at the end of 10 minutes we will know, thanks to the probe, that the product is pasteurised. Also, thanks to the cooker, the entire process will be recorded and in this way we can determine if the process has been completed successfully and has complied with the regulations.
RECOMMENDATION: So that the temperature at the core of the product is maintained at the temperature that we want, we recommend that the water tank is 2°C higher than the temperature desired at the core.
3. To check work standards
Furthermore, the needle probe is an essential tool for checking the standards of the work process. Although we have a standardised recipe, it is possible, by means of the probe, to verify that the work process has been carried out properly. For this, we can measure the internal temperature of the product that we have just removed from the bath. In this case, we use the probe as if it were a thermometer and, at the moment of removing the bag from the bath, we measure the internal temperature of the product to be served. Thus, we can satisfy ourselves that the internal temperature of our preparation is what we want and know whether the work process has been carried out correctly or not.
In summary, the needle probe is a very important, useful and basic tool for good vacuum and low temperature cooking. This probe guarantees food safety and provides quality in the product and in the final result, and lets us know if our work system is being carried out effectively.
According to Fleischmann, the probe is part of each and every one of the work standards, both for standardising and for controlling the quality and safety standards. According to him, the probe is a device that has allowed him to better understand the organoleptic variants and qualities of the proteins, and this has increasingly improved the quality of his preparations. For this, he believes that it is very important and necessary that every chef has his own book of needle probe standardised recipe times, because, although the temperatures are true everywhere, the qualities and characteristics of the product can vary depending on the country or the area.